As it stands heading into the conference season, the Big Ten could make a case for being the best league in the nation with a strong 83 percent winning percentage (127-26), seven teams among the VolleyMob Top 25 and three undefeated teams, but the conference is still largely untested with some major meetings ahead on Week 1.
Even Rutgers, with a 6-7 record is improved, surpassing its win tallies from the last three years and sits just one shy of the 2014 season total (7-26).
Nebraska was picked to win the league by the conference coaches.
- #3 Wisconsin
- #4 Illinois
- #5 Nebraska
- #7 Penn State
- #8 Minnesota
- #19 Michigan
- #20 Purdue
- RV Iowa
Week 1 Schedule (All Times ET)
|Sep. 19, 2018||Rutgers at Maryland||College Park, MD||7:00 pm|
|Ohio State at Wisconsin||Madison, WI||7:00 pm|
|Penn State at Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||9:00 pm|
|Sep. 21, 2018||Northwestern at Indiana||Bloomington, IN||7:00 pm|
|Illinois at Purdue||West Lafayette, IN||7:00 pm|
|Michigan State at Iowa||Iowa City, IA||8:00 pm|
|Michigan at Nebraska||Lincoln, NE||9:00 pm|
|Sep. 22, 2018||Rutgers at Wisconsin||Madison, WI||2:00 pm|
|Northwestern at Purdue||West Lafayette, IN||7:00 pm|
|Maryland at Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN||8:00 pm|
|Sep. 23, 2018||Illinois at Indiana||Bloomington, IN||TBA|
|Penn State at Ohio State||Columbus, OH||1:00 pm|
|Michigan at Iowa||Iowa City, IA||3:00 pm|
|Michigan State at Nebraska||Lincoln, NE||3:00 pm|
Illinois: The Illini are one of six undefeated teams left in all of Division I and one of three in the Big Ten.
- Illinois has played four AVCA Top 25 teams: #25 Colorado State (3-2), #21 Colorado (3-0), #13 Washington (3-1) and most recently #10 Creighton (3-1).
- The Illini are off to their best start since 2011, when the team opened 20-0 en route to an NCAA runnerup finish.
- Key Players:
- Ali Bastianelli paces the team at the net with 1.56 stuffs per set. The senior recently is the second Illini player to reach 600 blocks with 628 and is just 25 away from the program record (653, Johannah Bangert 2007-10).
- Jacqueline Quade is tops on the team with 4.33 kills per set, while hitting at a .341 clip and serving up 11 aces. She has notched double-digit kills in nine matches, including 20 or more three times.
- Setter Jordan Poulter notched her 4,000th career assist last weekend, becoming just the fourth Illini player to reach the milestone (4,o82). Poulter has dished out 11.46 assists per set and added 2.59 digs per set in 2018.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes bring a six-match win streak into conference play, including a 3-1 road upset win over instate foe Iowa State, their first win in Ames since 1997.
- Iowa took on Washington and Colorado at the Pac-12/Big 12 Challenge on Week 2, falling 3-1 to both teams.
- Players to Watch:
- Taylor Louis is averaging 4.41 kills per set, while hitting at a .312 clip. Louis has notched double-digit kills in nine of the team’s 11 matches. The senior is the NCAA Division I active career kills leader (1,698).
- Cali Hoye (3.65) and Reghan Coyle (2.74) also average more than two kills per set. Hoye also has served up a team-best eight aces.
- Hannah Clayton and Amaya Jones are the team’s top blockers with 1.23 and 1.00 per set respectively and 43 and 42 overall. Clayton has posted five or more blocks in six matches, while Jones has done so five times.
Indiana: Indiana has won its last four matches since falling to its lone ranked foe of the season in Northern Iowa (3-1).
- The Hoosiers have not played at home yet in 2018. They will make their University Gym debut on Friday against Northwestern.
- Key Players:
- Kendall Beeman (3.37) and Breana Edwards (3.14) pace the Hoosiers attack with more than three kills per set. Deyshia Lofton adds 2.33 kills per set to go with a team-best 1.35 blocks per set.
- Bayli Lebo has managed 4.47 digs per set and served up a team-best 15 aces. She has posted double-digit digs in all nine matches she has played, including 20 or more three times.
Maryland: The Terps come into the Big Ten season after a five-set loss to Princeton on Saturday. The team will look to rebound against former travel partner Rutgers on Wednesday at home in College Park.
- All three of Maryland’s losses have come in five sets: Princeton, South Carolina and Air Force.
- Key Players:
- Erika Pritchard is the standout weapon for the Terps with 4.26 kills per set, while hitting at a .242 clip. She has put down double-digit kill tallies in 11 of the team’s matches, including 20 or more twice.
- Katie Myers is one to watch from the end line, racking up 24 aces in the team’s 12 matches. She also has added a team-best 1.12 blocks per set.
Michigan: The Wolverines are off to their best start since 2011 heading into Friday’s match with No. 5 Nebraska in Lincoln.
- Michigan won 32 straight sets to start the season before falling in Set 3 of Sunday’s match at Notre Dame. The team bounced back to win in four sets.
- The Wolverines toughest contests came against former VolleyMob vote getters LSU and Colorado State.
- Key Players:
- Senior Carly Skjodt paces the team with 3.65 kills per set, while hitting .256. Rookie Paige Jones (3.39) and junior Sydney Wetterstrom (2.98) are right behind, hitting just a shade under .300. Jones also has served up 16 aces.
- Senior Jenna Lerg holds down the back court with 5.53 digs per set. She has notched double-digit digs in all but one of the team’s contest, including two 20-save efforts.
Michigan State: After dropping their season opener to Tennessee in four sets, the Spartans have rallied with 12 straight wins, although they have yet to play a ranked opponent. The 12-match win streak is its longest in non-conference play since going 12-0 in both 2009 and 2012.
- The Spartan roster features just one returning starter from its 2017 team, sophomore libero Jamye Cox.
- MSU lost 96 percent or its kills and 91 percent of its blocks to graduation after 2017.
- Key Players
- Freshman middle blocker Naya Gros leads the Big Ten and ranked second nationally in hitting percentage heading into Week 4 with a .481 clip, while notching 2.58 kills and a team-best 1.40 blocks per set.
- Sophomore outside Alyssa Chronowski leads the team with 3.14 kills per set and 20 aces.
- Cox has pulled up a team-leading 4.34 digs per set.
Minnesota: The Gophers were among the ranks of the unbeaten until Week 3 when they faced Stanford and Oregon in Palo Alto, California at the Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge, losing both matches in four sets.
- The Gophers got just one match in on their final non-conference weekend, topping Green Bay, before Saturday’s match with Kansas State was cancelled due to extreme heat in Maturi Pavilion.
- Key Players
Nebraska: The Huskers have won nine straight, including a sweep of Oregon and a five-setter against instate foe Creighton, since dropping their season-open to Florida.
- Nebraska will play its fifth straight match at home in the Devaney Center as it opens Big Ten play against Michigan on Friday.
- Key Players
- Mikaela Foecke paces the Huskers with 3.57 kills per set, while hitting at a .323 clip and serving up a team-best 18 aces. Foecke also aids the defense with 2.43 digs per set. She has turned in five double-doubles.
- Jazz Sweet (2.69) and Lauren Stivrins (2.14) also average more than two kills per set for the defending champs.
- Callie Schwarzenbach has been a force on the block, posting 1.60 stuffs per set. Schwarzenberg piled up 13 stuffs against New Mexico on Friday.
- Lexi Sun is an X-factor for the Huskers, but the Texas transfer has piled up 22 kills in her opening two matches after missing the first eight matches due to injury.
Northwestern: The Wildcats swept the competition at the Chicago Cup last weekend, bringing a three-match win streak into Friday’s match at Indiana.
- The Wildcats have not played at home in 2018 and will not do so until making their season debut at Evanston Township High School on Sept. 28 against Nebraska.
- Key Players
- Sophomore Nia Robinson paces Northwestern with 4.14 kills per set, while hitting .253 on the season. Robinson has posted double-digit kills in all of the teams matches, including a season-best 20 vs. Butler (9/8).
- Freshman Abryanna Cannon has chipped in 3.80 kills per set, with double-digit kill totals in five of her eight matches.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes snapped a five-match win streak with losses to Tennessee and Dayton at the Flyer Invitational on Saturday.
- Ohio State played its first three matches at home but have been on the road since. The team, which has yet to play a ranked foe, will kick off its Big Ten season at #3 Wisconsin on Wednesday.
- Key Players
Penn State: The Nittany Lions bring a four-match win streak into conference play, winning the American Volleyball Classic title last weekend with sweeps of Howard and Buffalo and a four-set win over American.
- No. 7 PSU plays its first four Big Ten matches on the road, beginning with Wednesday’s meeting with No. 8 Minnesota.
- Penn State split its two ranked matchups in Palo Alto, California, on Week 3, falling to Stanford in a sweep and rebounding with a 3-0 win over Oregon.
- Key Players
- Nia Reed leads a group of six Nittany Lion players averaging more than 2.00 kills per set. Reed has posted 3.17 kills per set at a .279 clip. Taylor Leath (2.58), Jonni Parker (2.57), Kaitlyn Hord (2.22), Allyson Cathey (2.05) and Serena Gray (2.04) follow.
- Leath tallied her 1000th career kill last weekend, including 928 from her time as an undergraduate at North Carolina.
- Kendall White has racked up 4.87 digs per set to lead the defense, notching double-digit efforts in all nine of her matches.
Purdue: The Boilermakers survived their lone top 25 meeting of the season, handing Alabama its first loss on the road in Tuscaloosa on Friday.
- The Boilermakers have survived two five setters, against Louisville (Sept. 8) and South Alabama (Sept. 15)
- Purdue plays host to fellow unbeaten Illinois to begin Big Ten play on Friday.
- Key Players
- Senior outside hitter Sherridan Atkinson paces the Boilermakers with 4.19 kills per set, while hitting at a .291 clip and serving up 12 aces. She has posted double-digit efforts in all 11 matches, including a career-high 25 vs. Southern Miss on Friday.
- Senior middle blocker Blake Mohler has put up 1.26 blocks per set and also chips in 2.40 kills per set on a team-best .420 hitting effort.
- Senior libero Brooke Peters has managed 5.17 digs per set, while serving up 18 aces. Peters has notched 11 double-digit efforts including five of 20 or more and two 30-dig efforts.
Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights have already surpassed their win totals from the previous three seasons and are one away from matching their 2014 output.
- Sahbria McLetchie has posted a team-best 3.35 kills per set, while hitting at a .261 clip and adding nine aces. The senior has managed nine double-digit efforts.
- Rookies Beka Kojadinovic (2.74) and Anastasiia Maksimova (2.29), both Russian natives, follow.
- Stasa Milevic (1.52) and Jasmine Stackhouse (1.30) are putting up more than a block per set. Miljevic has managed five or more blocks eight times, including a season-best 10 vs. Navy, while Stackhouse has put up five or more stuffs six times.
Wisconsin: The Badgers bring a three-match win streak into Big Ten play, after winning two matches at the Marquette Invitational, including a sweep of the #17 Golden Eagles.
- Wisconsin’s lone loss of the season came to Baylor (3-1). The Badgers boast a win over Texas (now #6).
- Wisconsin opens the Big Ten season at home against Ohio State on Wednesday.
- Key Players
- Grace Loberg (3.28) and Dana Rettke (3.24) lead the Badgers offensively. Rettke is hitting at a .371 clip and has put up a team-leading 1.90 blocks per set (55 in eight matches). Rettke has put up five or more blocks in seven matches, including a season-high nine twice. Loberg has managed nine or more kills in all of the team’s matches, including four double-digit efforts.
|Opp. Hitting Pct.||S||K||E||TA||Pct.|
|Naya Gros, Michigan State||43||111||22||185||.481|
|Blake Mohler, Purdue||42||101||20||193||.420|
|Regan Pittman, Minnesota||26||73||13||143||.420|
|Ali Bastianelli, Illinois||39||79||15||153||.418|
|Kaitlyn Hord, Penn State||27||60||10||121||.413|
|Lauren Witte, Ohio State||46||129||27||250||.408|
|Lauren Stivrins, Nebraska||35||75||21||135||.400|
|Jasmine Stackhouse, Rutgers||40||82||21||157||.389|
|Deyshia Lofton, Indiana||43||100||24||197||.386|
|Serena Gray, Penn State||27||55||16||102||.382|
|Madison Duello, Wisconsin||29||79||14||172||.378|
|Taylor Morgan, Minnesota||23||50||13||99||.374|
|Cori Crocker, Michigan||34||67||17||134||.373|
|Dana Rettke, Wisconsin||29||94||22||194||.371|
|Rainelle Jones, Maryland||43||79||23||151||.371|
(Must have at least 3.33 attacks per set)
|Taylor Louis, Iowa||41||181||4.41|
|Jacqueline Quade, Illinois||39||169||4.33|
|Erika Pritchard, Maryland||43||183||4.26|
|Sherridan Atkinson, Purdue||42||176||4.19|
|Nia Robinson, Northwestern||43||178||4.14|
|Stephanie Samedy, Minnesota||23||87||3.78|
|Carly Skjodt, Michigan||34||124||3.65|
|Cali Hoye, Iowa||34||124||3.65|
|Mikaela Foecke, Nebraska||35||125||3.57|
|Paige Jones, Michigan||33||112||3.39|
|Kendall Beerman, Indiana||43||145||3.37|
|Sahbria McLetchie, Rutgers||40||134||3.35|
|Megan Cooney, Illinois||39||129||3.31|
|Grace Loberg, Wisconsin||25||82||3.28|
|Dana Rettke, Wisconsin||29||94||3.24|
|Jordyn Poulter, Illinois||39||447||11.46|
|MacKenzi Welsh, Michigan||34||385||11.32|
|Sydney Hilley, Wisconsin||29||327||11.28|
|S. Seliger-Swenson, Minnesota||27||293||10.85|
|Hayley Bush, Purdue||42||453||10.79|
|Inna Balyko, Rutgers||46||492||10.70|
|Nicole Alford, Maryland||43||443||10.30|
|Brie Orr, Iowa||42||430||10.24|
|Bryanna Weiskircher, Penn State||31||308||9.94|
|Nicklin Hames, Nebraska||35||339||9.69|
|Olivia Dailey, Ohio State||32||304||9.50|
|Elena Shklyar, Michigan State||30||277||9.23|
|Britt Bommer, Northwestern||31||257||8.29|
|Kiara McNulty, Northwestern||30||241||8.03|
|Victoria Brisack, Indiana||42||264||6.29|
|Katie Myers, Maryland||43||24||0.56|
|Taylor Kuper, Illinois||39||20||0.51|
|Mikaela Foecke, Nebraska||35||18||0.51|
|Julianna Reisinger, Purdue||42||20||0.48|
|Paige Jones, Michigan||33||16||0.48|
|Alyssa Chronowski, Michigan State||44||20||0.45|
|Brooke Peters, Purdue||42||18||0.43|
|Nicklin Hames, Nebraska||35||15||0.43|
|Elena Shklyar, Michigan State||30||13||0.43|
|Sarah Johnson, Northwestern||31||13||0.42|
|Jamye Cox, Michigan State||32||13||0.41|
|Bryanna Weiskircher, Penn State||31||12||0.39|
|Jena Otec, Purdue||42||16||0.38|
|Karysa Swackenberg, Rutgers||46||17||0.37|
|Bayli Lebo, Indiana||43||15||0.35|
|Dana Rettke, Wisconsin||29||3||52||55||1.90|
|Callie Schwarzenbach, Nebraska||35||8||48||56||1.60|
|Ali Bastianelli, Illinois||39||4||57||61||1.56|
|Stasa Miljevic, Rutgers||42||5||59||64||1.52|
|Kaitlyn Hord, Penn State||27||3||38||41||1.52|
|Taylor Morgan, Minnesota||23||1||34||35||1.52|
|Serena Gray, Penn State||27||1||39||40||1.48|
|Naya Gros, Michigan State||43||9||51||60||1.40|
|Deyshia Lofton, Indiana||43||10||48||58||1.35|
|Jasmine Stackhouse, Rutgers||40||2||50||52||1.30|
|Blake Mohler, Purdue||42||7||46||53||1.26|
|Hannah Clayton, Iowa||35||4||39||43||1.23|
|Ashlyn Fleming, Illinois||36||3||39||42||1.17|
|Alana Walker, Northwestern||43||7||42||49||1.14|
|Katie Myers, Maryland||43||7||41||48||1.12|
|Regan Pittman, Minnesota||26||6||23||29||1.12|
|Jenna Lerg, Michigan||34||188||5.53|
|Molly Kelly, Iowa||42||218||5.19|
|Brooke Peters, Purdue||42||217||5.17|
|Kendall White, Penn State||31||151||4.87|
|Morgan O’Brien, Illinois||39||176||4.51|
|Allegra Rivas, Maryland||43||193||4.49|
|Bayli Lebo, Indiana||43||192||4.47|
|Jamye Cox, Michigan State||32||139||4.34|
|Tiffany Clark, Wisconsin||29||121||4.17|
|Kenzie Maloney, Nebraska||35||138||3.94|
|CC McGraw, Minnesota||27||98||3.63|
|Hannah Gruensfelder, Ohio State||46||166||3.61|
|Sarah Johnson, Northwestern||31||111||3.58|
|Michelle Lee, Northwestern||43||149||3.47|
|Karysa Swackenberg, Rutgers||46||146||3.17|